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How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident: 5 Tips

Man outside using phone to learn how to get a police report for a car accident.

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The aftermath of a car accident can be exhausting. Once the dust settles and you’re away from the scene, it’s time to deal with paperwork. This is how to get a police report for a car accident, what you can expect, and the reasons you need one. The most common reason to obtain a report is to send it to your insurance company. All critical information such as contact and insurance for the other parties, diagrams of the accident, vehicle details, and date and location are contained in this one document. These five tips can make the process clearer and easier for you.

Tip 1: There Is More Than One Way to Request Your Report

There are a few strategies for how to get a police report. For a car accident in which police respond to the scene, it is a good idea to get the officers’ names and badge numbers. This makes tracking down the report much easier later. You can access a report filed by a responding officer in the following ways.

Contact the Law Enforcement Office

Contact the appropriate law enforcement office to request your report. Whether the local police, county sheriff, or highway patrol respond depends on the jurisdiction. For example, state troopers may respond to accidents occurring on interstates and highways. The responding officer should give you instructions on how to find your report once it’s filed. If not, call or visit the appropriate police department. Additionally, many jurisdictions have simple online forms you can fill out to request your accident report.

Request a Copy from the Responding Officers

It is worth asking the responding officer if they have a carbon copy of the accident report available at the scene. This is unlikely as most jurisdictions charge a fee to access accident reports. If there is not a carbon copy available, the officer should provide you with a free report receipt, which you can reference to request the full report later from the appropriate law enforcement office.

Request a Copy from Your Insurance Agency

Usually, you are the one who obtains the report and sends it to the insurance company. Occasionally, however, your insurance company will collect the report, and you can request a copy from them. It’s worth asking your insurer since it could save you time and money.

Tip 2: Learn When Your Report Will Be Ready

Your instinct will likely be to track down the accident report as soon as possible, but it might not be ready. Some jurisdictions may not make the report available until, for example, at least 14 days after the accident. On the other hand, some jurisdictions limit how long you have to request your report before it’s no longer available. It may be possible to obtain a copy if you miss the deadline, but it will be more difficult. Check with the responding police officer or law enforcement office.

Tip 3: You May Have to File Your Own Report

You should get documentation even if the police weren’t called. Legal problems can arise even after the most minor fender-benders. Other parties can claim later that they were injured, or claim you were at fault even if you were not. A police report may protect you from liability for something you didn’t do, or from car accident fraud. You may wonder how to get a police report for a car accident when police officers did not respond to the scene. In that case, you would need to file your own accident report by visiting your closest Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) location. You may have between 10 and 30 days to report an accident on your own, depending on your jurisdiction.

Tip 4: Only Certain People Can Request Your Report

Depending on the state, your accident report may only be available to you, your attorney, your insurance company, and the other parties to the accident. You will likely need to request the accident report yourself. Rules for how to get a police report for a car accident vary by state. Some reports become part of the public record after a certain amount of time. Even when records are technically public, they may still be behind a paywall or only available for certain purposes.

Tip 5: Try to Correct Any Errors on Your Report

Your accident report was created by another person, so it likely won’t be perfect. Review it closely and bring any errors to the attention of the law enforcement office, or ask if you can amend it to include missing information. This can shield you from liability that may arise from a mistake or omission in the report.

Need More Guidance?

Now that you know how to get a police report for a car accident, consider getting a free evaluation. An attorney can help with all parts of the insurance claims process and give you peace of mind.

Disclaimer

This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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